Food & Drink

Behind The Bean, Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Coffee According To An Expert

By Jess Willemse
8th Dec 2020

There’s no denying New Zealand is a nation of coffee-lovers. With a taste for well-made flat whites over floofy frappuccinos, and humble owner-operated cafés around every corner, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to our regular caffeine hit. 

Plus, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that coffee is a serious staple in bringing us joy on the daily. So we sat down for a cup of the good stuff with fellow coffee geek Dan Hobson—Brand Ambassador and Head of Coffee Education at Zephyr Coffee Co.—to find out what it really takes to master the perfect brew. 

As a kid, Dan was drawn to the charismatic nature of baristas and the vibrant atmosphere of cafés as places of conversation and creativity. After taking on London for a few years, Dan is now back living the dream on home soil, having helped launch Zephyr Coffee Co.—a new line of speciality coffee crafted with Kiwis at heart.

He’s here to spill the beans on everything you need to know about a good old cup of Joe. 

Sink Your Teeth Into Specialty Coffee 

It might come as a surprise to you that not all coffee is created equal. So what’s the shtick with specialty coffee like Zephyr? Dan explains “basically, this type of coffee is all about provenance, and going back to where and how it’s grown. It’s just about digging a bit deeper, similar to the rise in craft beer or artisan wines. It’s understanding something you’re consuming a little bit more and enjoying exploring that as well. Coffee is very similar to wine in terms of vintages, years and seasons—it’s a seasonal product. While it’s very easy to think of it as the drink you get in a cup, coffee is so much more than that, and specialty coffee is about engaging with the product.” 

Pimp Your Tool Kit With The Basics 

You won’t see any plastic pods or frothy sachets littering Dan’s kitchen bench. When it comes to curating a good brew, he likes to keep it simple, opting for effective tools and quality ingredients.

“I’ve got three things. A grinder for me is key—freshly ground beans make the world of difference and is so worth it. You’ve got your scales, they help you to replicate the recipe over and over by weighing the water and the coffee. And then a really key component is quality coffee, so buying coffee that is fresh and well roasted. It’s really easy to get carried away with lots of different gadgets, but you can produce a really great cup with freshly ground quality coffee.” 

Get Around Soft Brew 

In case you missed it, 2020 has been the year of whipped dalgona coffee. But that trend has come and gone, and for Dan, the way you sip your brew is all about bringing out the flavour profiles of the bean. 

“I genuinely don’t have a favourite. I think there are so many different ways to enjoy coffee dependent on seasons, time of day or the actual coffee—whether it’s a Kenyan, Ethiopian or Colombian coffee. I will say that I’m a huge fan of soft brew coffee, which encompasses many different methods but it’s essentially filtered coffee. It’s definitely had a bad reputation in the past but it is the way that I feel I get to enjoy some of the more nuanced flavours that coffee has to offer.” 

Consider Your Caffeine Footprint 

Small changes equal big impact, and with the launch of our sustainability vertical this year, Urban List is all about adapting parts of your life to be kinder on the planet. We asked Dan what we can do to improve our caffeine footprint and he said “there’s some immediate things we can do around reuse, so like Keep Cups, 'again again' programs and koha jars we have here in New Zealand. It’s all about forming a habit around the way we consume. 

But basically, the biggest thing we can do is to buy coffee that respects the whole chain, from the barista right through to the producer. If we aren’t looking to encourage the production of quality coffee and improving the lives of those workers we will see less coffee being produced. It’s really that idea of voting with your wallet—we can really help shift the dial on buying practices.”

Embrace New Zealand’s Vibrant And Rich Coffee Culture 

In New Zealand, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing cafés and baristas.

“One of the key things for me is that we do have some incredible people in New Zealand who started at the forefront of coffee and are real trailblazers in the industry” says Dan. “The one thing that I really love about our community is passion—its intoxicating passion, and particularly with a coffee professional, it’s pretty hard not to be inspired and want to do more in that space when you’re surrounded by people who are passionate.” 

Gather Your Coffee Community

For Dan, coffee is all about community. It’s a really important part for him, and he’s lucky enough to have built up a community that spans far and wide. He tells us “I have so many fond memories, but one of my most recent was during our first lockdown in NZ. I had only just purchased a home espresso machine—it was my panic purchase if I’m being honest. Sharing coffees with my flatmates every morning around the kitchen table and talking about how we were dealing with the uncertainty, the new habits, ways of coping and helping each other through that time was something that I will never forget. It renewed my love for the power that coffee has to make us stop, take stock and help each other out.”

When In Doubt, Back Local 

The message is simple when it comes to choosing where you drop those precious daily $5 for a flat white—”now is the time to support those who really make a difference in what they’re doing. If there is a café that you really enjoy going to, please show up, spend some money, show them you want them around, or even buying a bag of specialty coffee through your local café can help both the roaster and the café.”

And if you’re looking for specific recommendations, Dan also has you covered there. “Earlier this week I was in Tauranga, and working with the team at  Me & You, I love their passion for coffee and learning more. Just last month I got to visit Ohakune and Andrew who is running Elemento there has a real focus on sustainability and I just find him absolutely inspiring. Closer to home in Auckland, Zephyr has also partnered with Michael Meredith and his new opening in Britomart, Mr. Morris. He’s got a strong focus on Pacific and New Zealand produce, and I’m really excited to see people engage with our coffee in a similar way.” 

If you’re tired of the regular, why not switch up your routine with a cup of specialty coffee from the team over at Zephyr Coffee Co. Backed by Dan (so you know it’s good), Zephyr is all about celebrating craftsmanship and supporting the industry throughout the chain by creating delicious coffee to fuel maker’s minds. Find your local café here. 

Editor’s note: This article is proudly sponsored by Zephyr Coffee Co. and endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

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